Welcome to another Grand Slam! It has been a couple of very nice weeks leading up to the Australian Open, and I am hoping for it to continue in the coming weeks.
I have made the decision not to complete draw previews for this Grand Slam for a number of reasons. First of all, I don’t think it is a strength of mine, and I personally would rather focus on taking each match as it comes, and secondly, I was finding I wasn’t going back over draw previews after the event, therefore not learning and developing my skills. Ultimately, I think my strength lies in looking at head to head match ups, so that will be my focus.
In the past, including this time last year, I found myself struggling to adjust from lower tournaments to Grand Slam events. As many of you know, I do like to find a big value winner from time to time, however it is certainly more difficult to find when you are at a Grand Slam, especially with the mens best of 5 set format. You will see less long shot ATP selections in Grand Slams, with a greater focus on taking + game handicaps in these scenarios. It isn’t always about taking big prices.
If anyone has any questions about any matches, please tweet me at @Ace_TheProfits and I will do my best to get back to you in a timely manner. Also, I will continue to add plays throughout the day – the best way to keep an eye on things is on Twitter.
Wishing everyone a great fortnight of tennis! Hope you back a winner or two.
Matthew Ebden vs John Isner
Matt Ebden is a perfect example of what you need to do late in a year to ensure your ranking is at a Grand Slam direct entry worthy level. Ebden put himself through quite a tough schedule of Challenger tennis during October and November, including winning the Canberra Challenger as well as the Toyota Challenger (losing mid-tournament in the weeks following trying to maintain the heavy schedule. Ultimately however, Ebden was rewarded, finding his way into the main draw of the Australian Open, and in the end didn’t need to rely on a wildcard for Brisbane like he was originally offered (his wildcard ultimately went to Alex De Minaur, who I think might be pretty thankful right now for Ebden’s improved ranking).
Not only has the Challenger performances lifted Ebden’s ranking, but it has certainly improved his confidence coming into the Australian swing, and it has really started to show in his tennis. After comprehensively beating Frances Tiafoe in Brisbane, Ebden found himself a tiebreak away from victory against Nick Kyrgios (which on reflection, looks like pretty impressive form now!). Ebden then put some solid Kooyong Exhibition performances together, defeat Marin Cilic, before losing to Gasquet in straight and Busta in 3 sets. What is also interesting to note is that Ebden has a 7/3 record over the last 12 months against players over 6ft2″.
John Isner hasn’t had what you would call his best lead in to a Grand Slam ever. Renowned for putting in some pretty impressive weeks before Grand Slams (almost to his detriment at times), Isner is coming into the #AusOpen with only one match under his belt, a 3 set loss to Chung in Auckland. The 32 year olds form did drop off a touch in 2017, with a few more uncharacteristic losses in early rounds of tournaments, especially on hardcourt. Isner has lost 16 times on hardcourt since the start of 2017, including losses to Young, Chung, Krajinovic, Coric, Troicki, M Zverev (multiple times), Johnson and Monfils. Add to this that across his career, John Isner has a 13/9 win/loss record at Melbourne Park, having only made it to the 4th round once in his career (2016 – steamrolled by David Ferrer backing up off a 5 set match). Melbourne isn’t a happy hunting ground here for Isner, and I really think he may struggle first up against Ebden here.
I have thought about how to best play this match a couple of ways. Ultimately, I think if Ebden continues his early season form, he is a massive chance of beating John Isner here. At the same time, I am aware that across best of 5 set tennis it can be even more difficult to get a big underdog home in the mens’ game at a nice price, and considering it is the first day of a Grand Slam, I am going to err on the side of caution initially. I am very confident that on Margaret Court Arena, at home, that Ebden can cover the +4.5 game handicap comfortably.
5 units Matt Ebden +4.5 games vs John Isner at $1.88 at Pinnacle
Diego Schwartzman vs Dusan Lajovic
I am struggling to find a reason to back Lajovic in any capacity here. Losses to Vukic, Chardy, Bolelli, Bernankis and Isner to have occurred since he made his way through qualifying in Shanghai at the start of October. Some of his losses were downright poor, and Schwartzman presents a bit of a horror matchup for Lajovic here. Lajovic is very much a confidence player, and I don’t believe he will have gained any confidence from his qualifying loss to Aleksandar Vukic in Sydney qualifying, 5-7 6-7.
Schwartzman has put together some very solid performances on hardcourt over the last 12 months, highlighted by a US Open quarter final, as well as wins over Carreno Busta, Fognini, Tsitsipas, Ferrer, Johnson, Tomic, Pouille, Young, Cilic, Thiem and Khachanov. I am pretty comfortable that if Schwartzman brings his best, then he should be able to cover the game handicap comfortably. I think there may be a 6-1 or 6-2 set in there, so this should still be able to cover in a 4 set victory. We would need to see a significant uptick in performance from Lajovic for him to be any form of chance here in this matchup.
3 units Schwartzman -5.5 games vs Lajovic at $1.83 at Pinnacle
Taylor Townsend vs Magdalena Rybarikova
I am not too sure how on form currently you can justify Rybarikova being a favourite in this matchup. Outside of a late run at one of the weaker WTA tournaments in Linz to close out 2017, there aren’t a great deal of positives to take out of the form of Rybarikova since Wimbledon, where she made the semi final. Throughout the later months of 2017, Rybarikova had quite an up and down time, with a couple of solid wins bookmarked by some poor performances as well as retirements. Her performance last week in Sydney was poor after her first set. After breaking immediately, and having a chance to go ahead with a double break *3-0 vs Bellis, Rybarikova was unable to earn another break point for the rest of the match, losing 6-7 0-6. Rybarikova was ultimately undone by her first serve percentage dropping below 60%, winning only 8 of 28 points behind her second serve.
Taylor Townsend finished off 2017 with some solid ITF level performances, winning the Waco title in November (with wins over van Zyl, Arconada, Schmiedlova, Kenin and Tomljanovic), before a strong showing a fortnight ago in Auckland, where after defeating Christina McHale from a set down, put up a spirited showing vs Radwanska, ultimately losing 3-6 5-7. It was a spirited showing from Townsend, who managed to save 10 of 15 break points, as well as keep Radwanska to 50% points won on her second serve.
I think Townsend is worth a small play here to kick things off on day 1. I think Townsend has the shotmaking and power to trouble Rybarikova, and a an underdog price, I am comfortable making a small play here.
2 units Townsend to defeat Rybarikova at $2.17 at Pinnacle